The secret to weight loss is not kept behind seven locks: if you spend more energy than you consume (calorie deficit) — you lose weight. Then why do so many people still struggle to reach their weight goals? That’s because in most cases a calorie deficit comes at the expense of satiety and satisfied taste buds. The good news is that there’s a way to stay full while decreasing calorie intake — volume eating. Also referred to as volumetrics, this approach to nutrition is easy to understand and requires very little effort. Intrigued? Let’s look into some volume eating foods, recipes, and strategies.
The logic behind volume eating is simple: calories don’t make us full, it’s the volume of food we eat. Don’t just take our word for it, several studies have shown that people report similar levels of hunger and fullness when the food volume stays the same but calories are reduced (2).
The trick is that foods range considerably in how much you can eat for the same amount of calories: 340 kcals can be in the shape of a 100g doughnut or more than a kilogram of fresh strawberries.
This difference is based on the energy density (ED), which is the amount of energy you get from a given weight of food (kcal/g). ED differs for various macronutrients, let’s take a look at kcal per 1g (2):
So by regulating the composition of your food choices, you can have larger portions with fewer calories and reduce overall energy intake.
Volume eating is backed by more than a decade of research by Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition and head of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University. Rolls provides laboratory-based, epidemiological, and clinical data to back this approach:
Based on ED, we can differentiate “high-volume” and “low-volume” foods. The former are low-calorie items that you can eat in a large volume, the latter are foods with high ED that provide many calories even in low volume portions.
With volume eating, your task is to incorporate more high-volume foods that will fill up your stomach in a literal sense, so you don’t eat as much when giving in to your favorite low-volume food cravings like pizza and chocolate candies.
So what are the volume eating foods to include in your weight loss diet (2)?
Water-rich fruits and vegetables. You can “water down” your meals to make the overall energy density lower. Include:
Fiber-rich foods. These are:
But you can’t live off lettuce and whole-grain bread, right? Exactly! These high-volume foods are your guide to small changes, as volume eating is about a healthier balance of high- and low-volume foods achieved through easy strategies.
Here are a few volume eating tips to fine-tune your nutrition habits:
The best part is that you don’t need to count calories to implement volume eating! But if you are into calorie counting, with volume eating you stay full on 1200 calories or whatever goal you have based on your energy expenditure.
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You might wonder if the volume eating approach is an option if you are on a Keto diet. It seems counter-intuitive, as Keto is a high-fat low-carb diet, meaning that its core is foods with high energy density.
However, keto volume eating is a thing! Some volume eating approaches might be lifesavers for keto-newbies who are struggling to feel full with small portion sizes. Adding more high-volume greens and low-carb veggies can ease the transition, so you don’t have to power through the hunger. Also, when you feel up on water-rich foods, you’ll more likely avoid fat overconsumption.
If you are still hesitating despite all the benefits of volume eating, it might be because nibbling on kale and cucumbers before moving on to carbs and proteins doesn’t sound like much fun. We gathered some volume eating recipe examples to show that high-volume low-ED foods don’t mean less flavor!
The recipe is for 4 servings, 83 kcals each (6).
The recipe is for 4 servings, 156 kcals each (3).
The recipe is for 4 servings, 105 kcals each (1).
The recipe is for 4 servings, 84 kcals each (7).
Volume eating is a flexible science-based approach to nutrition that leads to sustainable weight loss for minimal effort. Once you learn about energy density and decide which high-volume foods to incorporate, following the tips is even easier.
Among other benefits:
So if you are looking for ways to bring your weight loss game to a new level, volume eating is a thing to try!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!